London, September 14 : Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of a 12th century abbey in Abbeytown, UK, which has revealed hundreds of years of history.
According to a report in the Cumberland News, a team of volunteers painstakingly pieced together some of the buried secrets of Holme Cultram Abbey last week during a 12-day dig.
The abbey was founded in 1150 by the Cistercian Monks from Melrose Abbey on the Scottish Borders. It grew to be larger than Carlisle Cathedral in the 15th century.
But after the dissolution of the monasteries during the rule of Henry VIII, the abbey fell into disrepair and much of its stone was taken away to build houses.
Only the abbey's church remains above ground, although this was subject of an arson attack in 2006, which gutted its interior.
Now, the West Cumbrian Archeologists Society team has uncovered what they believe to be its cloisters in the first ever dig on the south side of the historic site.
"There are no plans of the abbey," said society secretary Pat Bull. "We have an idea of what might be here because the Cistercians built their abbeys to a similar plan. But no-one's ever dug here," she added.
Geophysical tests helped to show the society where to place their 25m trench.
Mark Graham, an archaeologist from Grampus Heritage and dig co-ordinator, said the amount of masonry still in the ground was "encouraging".
The team had to wait over two years until planning was in place and permission from English Heritage and the Government came through.
According to Jan Walker, chairwoman of the society and fellow dig co-ordinator, "It has taken us a couple of years to get this off the ground. "We have uncovered a medieval drain, some medieval pottery and some bits of dressed stone," she added.
The volunteers' work has also uncovered glimpses into how the monks lived.
They have uncovered a medieval midden, or rubbish heap complete with animal bones, oyster and whelk shells.
The abbey was wealthy and the monks owned more than 6,000 sheep. They also mined salt at Saltcotes and Crosscanonby.
"At one time, the abbey produced what was thought to be the best salt in Britain," said Bull.
The society will now analyze and log their finds and have not ruled out applications for further excavation.